Thanks offered up for return of family, treasured items - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Thanks offered up for return of family, treasured items

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Posted: Thursday, November 24, 2011 4:31 pm

As people around the East Valley celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with family and friends, there are those who have been unfortunate this year, becoming victims of crime or some kind of injustice.

Through all they have suffered or lost, these survivors again can be thankful as they've recovered love ones lost or belongings they held close to their hearts.

The Tribune revisited some of them to see how they are celebrating Thanksgiving and what they are grateful for.

Father's best gift: seeing his daughter again

When Michael Sanchez of San Tan Valley celebrated Thanksgiving this year with about 15 of his family members in Lisle, Ill., the traditional turkey dinner had more meaning than the past few years.

Even though Sanchez's 6-year-old daughter, Emily Machado, will not be sitting at the table with him, Sanchez said he still has a lot to be thankful for.

In August, for the first time in three and a half years, Sanchez was reunited with his daughter. His estranged girlfriend fled with Emily to her native country of Brazil during a custody dispute in March 2008 when the child was 2.

"I am thankful I have Emily back in my life," Sanchez said. "Last year, when I was asked what I was thankful for at the Thanksgiving table, I got emotional. I didn't know what to say. When you have the most important thing in your life taken away, the holidays don't really have any meaning and I didn't really care to celebrate them. Even though Emily is not here, I'm thankful I found her. Just to know that she is safe and healthy, that's a lot to be thankful for. There's a lot of other parents out there who haven't seen their child or children for longer amounts of time. It's devastating."

Sanchez did not know where Emily was until September 2010 when Interpol and other authorities located the child and conducted a welfare check on her. Then, after a drawn-out mediation process, Sanchez got to see his daughter in Brazil.

Sanchez is grateful for the help from federal government agencies, and family and friends stepping in during the search and reunion.

Sanchez said there is a lot of comfort in knowing he can call Emily on the phone and video chat with her at any time. He is leaving for Brazil on Dec. 11 to spend Christmas with her.

Sanchez said he is pushing for federal laws involving missing and abducted children.

"Families of parents with missing or abducted children should stick by them," Sanchez said. "They are suffering even though they may not show it, especially around the holidays. Holidays are meant to be with your family."

Late husband's ashes back where they belong

Two months after Tempe resident Karen Dory's home was burglarized, she about gave up hope that the urn containing the ashes of her late husband would be recovered.

But during a traffic stop in late July, Tempe police arrested a Tucson man accused of fraudulently racking up $1,000 on Dory's credit card that was taken during the June 2 burglary, along with jewelry and a coin collection.

The arrest of Anthony Edward Jessup Sr., 49, led police to the recovery of the urn containing the ashes of Grant M. Dory, who died after a heart attack in 1992 at age 67. But police still are looking for a second suspect in the burglary, a man seen with Jessup in the video surveillance using the stolen credit card. The man is described as about 35-years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, 190 pounds who was wearing a red shirt.

"Today, the burglary seems like a bad dream," Dory said. "They stole 33 years of my past. I am thankful I got the urn back - it's home, where it belongs."

Grant Dory, an Air Force veteran, served during World War II and later volunteered to serve in the Vietnam War. He received a Purple Heart and was a prisoner of war in a Nazi concentration camp.

Karen Dory said she now, "truly believes in miracles."

Since the burglary, Karen Dory has undergone two back surgeries and endured physical therapy. But this Thanksgiving, she got to be with her children and grandchildren. And she has an important piece of her life back.

"I'm thankful to be spending Thanksgiving with my family and grateful that I can walk again," Dory said. "I've gone from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane. Before long, I'll be able to drive again."

Restaurant icon returned home

In September, when one of the East Valley's most popular icons visible from Route 88 was stolen from the Mining Camp Restaurant in Apache Junction, the customers noticed its disappearance before its owners did.

"Picky Pete," the 9-foot tall metal sign of a Lost Dutchman gold miner, was taken from in front of the 51-year-old restaurant at 6100 E. Mining Camp St.. It has just been placed there about a year earlier.

But three days after its disappearance, the 150-pound mascot valued at about $1,500 was discovered lying in a ditch along Star Road by a man who had seen its picture in the media.

Picky Pete was returned to the restaurant.

The owners, Deborah and Vinten Fugate, who hosted more than 500 customers for an annual Thanksgiving dinner, are glad the restaurant's mascot is back. They are thankful for family and friends, and that their business has survived through a bad economy.

"Of course we're thankful he's back," said Vinten Fugate, who has been at the restaurant for 50 years. "I'm thankful for a lot of things - my family and our customers who make our jobs possible."

"Picky Pete is an asset to our company," Vinten Fugate added. "The restaurant was ignored for so long, and we're glad he's back at his post. He's a beacon for customers."

Deborah Fugate echoed her husband's sentiments about Picky Pete and their Thanksgiving tradition.

"We're thankful for family and blessed by the Lord. And we're thankful for law enforcement doing their due diligence and the media getting the word out to help find him," she said.

Vinten Fugate added, "The holiday season always is a joyful time of year. We're thankful for everything God bestows upon us. We always like to celebrate Thanksgiving here. We work as a group. We're a family."


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